Bates Motel – Season 1

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I can’t even remember how I came across Bate’s Motel but somewhere on the web I spotted it and decided to give it a watch. As of yet there’s no date for when the series will air in the UK but I’m sure you’ll find ways to watch it as I did. It takes a rather unusual premise for a tv show as we already know what’s going to happen at the end. It follows mother and son Norma and Norman Bates as they take over a motel. You will know the Bates’ as the murdering duo from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the show tells the story of how they ended up one of the characters we know from the film. Despite it being a prequel it is still set in the modern day, however, which seems an attempt to attract a younger audience to the series.

The first episode of the show grabs you by the throat. It throws it all it has at you straight away with murder, rape and all round psychosis, once you watch that it’s hard not to get drawn into the series. The casting of the show is, perhaps, its greatest triumph Freddie Highmore is perfect for the young Norman Bates with an otherworldly innocence about his face that at once seems as sweet as pie and as nuts as, well, a bag of Nobby’s. He’s persistently on form through the season’s ten episode run and brings sympathy to a character which really shouldn’t have a huge amount. Also good is Olivia Cooke who plays Emma Decody, Norman’s best friend at school and Max Thieriot who plays Dylan, Norman’s brother. It’s Vera Farmiga as Norma, however, who completely steals the show in every episode. She is utterly compelling as the troubled yet completely psychotic mother who is completely over-protective of her son when she struggles greatly to keep herself together. As the series goes on she increasingly becomes the most interesting character and Farmiga has it down to a tee.

When it comes to the writing the show is a lot more simplistic than most of the drama series I’m into from America. It’s got much more of a singular narrative than, say, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk or even Breaking Bad as it focusses solely on the lives of the three central characters. For the most part this works well and makes the show a more relaxing show than many others but at times it does feel as though the story is over stretched. The momentum of the show drops off towards the end of the season and is only really rectified at the very end of episode 10. I also couldn’t get over how clunky the way Dylan comes into the show, it was just completely unbelievable and seemed rushed as a way to throw a bit more drama into the mix. Without him the show would be lacking a lot but they could have put a bit more thought into his reasons for suddenly moving back in with his mother who he hates.

As a whole though, I very much enjoyed the season and despite those few qualms I found myself wanting more. As I said, the momentum is picked back at the end of episode 10 and it certainly does end on a strong point meaning things are looking up for it’s second season. Definitely worth a watch.

The Ice Cream Girls

528173_450367825048618_1651344366_nSo a few weeks ago I somehow ended watching the first episode of ITV’s three-part miniseries The Ice Cream Girls. Based on a book of the same name the series tells the story of two girls. One has just been released from prison after serving a very long sentence for a murder that she maintains was not her. The other has built herself a family and lives to keep it together but when she moves back to her home town to look after her mother it brings back her dark past. It is gradually revealed that both girls got involved with an abusive older man, he was the teacher of one of them. This bloke plays them off against one another and forces them to do things against their will, their relationships become more and more volatile until this bloke ends up murdered. Then Poppy, one of the girls, takes the blame for the killing when it comes to court and is locked up while the other girl is left to roam free. The show holds the mystery as to who did the actual killing until the very last episode.

It’s a shame that they don’t manage to fully utilise the tension of the story. While the acting of the show was very well done and the final reveal is fittingly surprising for me the show didn’t work as a whole. The characters are to built up enough and, in particular, Poppy’s motivation and generally what makes her character tick is never touched upon, its left to you as the viewer to figure out which asks too much of you. The detestable male character is very well portrayed by Martin Compston with his sickly grin and well placed outbursts, it shows that Compston is a well-established actor to keep an eye on, but when it comes to his killing everything seems off key. That’s the whole thing about this miniseries, really, is that it just doesn’t feel quite right. It partly wants to be a mystery, it partly wants to be a tragedy but never delivers fully on either front and it loses its thrill as a result. Also while the twist is surprising it doesn’t make any real sense with the way you’ve got to know the characters.

While for ITV this was one of the better drama series I’ve seen when you compare it with the things that BBC and Channel 4 are bringing out its clear that ITV have got a fair bit of work to do before they can reach the standard. Having said that I still need to watch Broadchurch which could prove me completely wrong.

 

An Unusual Murder, part 3

The following is filed as classified evidence for the Simon Falmouth case.

Official Statement

Sarah

I’m not a fan of Mary, that bitch thinks she knows what’s best for me. To tell you the truth I fantasised about hurting her in the past. She always tells me though, ‘Violence solves nothing.’ She has no idea. I don’t want to solve anything. She doesn’t understand what I’ve been through. The others live their lives in blissful ignorance, I’m the one who has to take the pain. I just wish every once in a while I could get the pain out. But I can’t. Why don’t they try living with this baggage? Rather than complaining at me for acting out, why don’t they take some responsibility for once? Especially that fucking Mary.

People always tell me off for the scars I leave on my arm. They don’t understand that either. When the pain inside is so great it’s a relief to be able to concentrate on a lesser pain on the outside. I cut an artery once and almost died. That did shake me up a bit and I admitted to some of the stuff I’d been keeping in. I told people some of my memories, the really bad ones, the ones that haunt my dreams. The ones that Chris and the others have managed to forget. Do you want me to tell you those memories? Of course you fucking do everyone wants to know about my tortured past that’d make great reading material wouldn’t it? Well fuck you, fuck everyone. I deal with that by myself, why should it be anyone else’s business? Mary’s always poking that beak-like nose of hers into my business trying to find out what stuff’s happened to me so she can study and fix me. I’m already too far broken.

When I was younger, about fourteen, my brother showed me how to set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. Sometimes I just used to go down to the woods for hours with my magnifying glass and burn as many of them as I could. It used to make me feel calm, I was in control of everything in those moments. Nowadays I wish I had a giant magnifying glass that I could hold over Mary until I see her shrivel into a clump of black ash on the floor. Sometimes I wish someone would do the same to me. I do wish I was there to see Badman stab her though, I want to see the bitch die and I’m glad she’s gone now.

There are lots of people that think they can understand my problems. They are wrong. First of all no one who has a fully functioning mind can possibly cope with the things I’ve been through without ending up as fucked up as me and then they wouldn’t care to have to learn about other people’s issues. Another reason is that if people understood my problems they would know that I can take care of myself without fucking Mary following me around and making sure I’m not making the rest of the world feel uncomfortable. But the biggest thing that gets me is that if people understood my problems they wouldn’t spend their whole pathetic lives trying to get me to tell them stuff because they’d know how painful it all is, that’s why I know that no one understands because all anyone ever wants is to hear my story. They want to know why I’m like this. With Mary gone that’s one less person to poke around in my head.

Heavy Rain

So today I finished my first play through of Heavy Rain and, I know it’s an old game but, I felt compelled to review it. Also my game review section has been sitting dormant again for quite a while. Released back in 2010 the game offered players a new type of gaming experience, interactive drama. Rather than following the usual formula for video games these days developers Qunatic Dream have created a fully customisable and interactive movie. Playing as the four main characters all involved in different ways with the Origami killer who kidnaps children and locks them in drain pipes. As more rain falls the water rises and eventually the child is drowned, hence the title. Instead of being a fully controllable game, like most, players instead have to select what the character says, the next item the character looks at or tap a button to determine whether their character punches or gets punched. There are allegedly 22 different plot line possibilities based on the decisions you make.

The control method of the game is the first thing that took my by surprise, excluding the fact that the whole game is one big animated film. Most actions a controlled by a specific movement on the right thumb stick. Things are slow to start off with, you wake up as Ethan Mars and have to take him for a piss, shower him and dress him before preparing for his wife and kids come home. There are moments at the beginning of the game that I found got a bit tedious. The first level or so of controlling the character through a few mundane activities is helpful to get used to the control system but after a while these activities become tedious. When the action does start happening though and the plot starts unfolding that’s where the game really takes off. As each character gets closer to figuring out who the killer is and where he’s keeping his hostage, Mars’ son, the amount of dramatic moments increases. Heated interrogations and violent fights break out in nearly every section and every button you press could have a significant effect on how the story turns out. This is where Quantic Dream have managed to really showcase how good interactive drama can be. Rather than having to settle for one ending like you do in a film, you can play the game over and over and every time see something different happen, making this game have probably the greatest replay value of all time.

In the end the question is whether the game is successful in creating a fully submersive motion picture. The answer I think is, yes, it shows us exactly how much potential this genre can have. Heavy Rain is just the beginning of what could a whole new era of storytelling combining with gaming. The writing of the plot lines is fantastic ensuring you are gripped at all times the only thing that could do with tweaking is the control system which at times feels awkward. But Quantic Dream have shown just what possibilities gaming can bring us, eventually could this be how all films are consumed?

 

Lost Highway

It took a very long while for me to be able to get hold of a copy of Lost Highway, but it finally became available on Lovefilm a week or so ago and after putting it as my only high priority it finally came. I now only have one Lynch film left to watch, Dune, which I am slightly worried about but for now lets get on with Lost Highway.

The film has a feel a lot more like a horror film than most of Lynch’s work. There is, I’ve decided, a theme of possession, because nothing’s ever 100% clear with Lynch, but the theme has been evident in a number of his other works, perhaps most notably in Twin Peaks with the story of Laura Palmer’s possessed father. My theory for the plot is that the guy pictured above (the Mystery Man) has unfinished business with Robert Loggia’s character Mr. Eddy, who is a gangster in the porn industry. Through some kind of supernatural powers the Mystery Man takes our protagonist, Fred, back in time and shows him his girlfriend being used by this gangster, as it goes on the Mystery Man takes him back and forth in time and ultimately gets him to a position ready to kill Mr. Eddy. Although this is all just speculation, as always, the narrative is very cryptic.

The theme feels slightly more mainstream than those found in Lynch’s more abstract features making it, probably, most similar to Blue Velvet when compared to the rest of his back catalogue. The plot seems a lot clearer than in more recent titles like Mulholland Drive or Inland Empire.

The music is a highlight of the film, unusually taking a role right at the forefront of the films action. It has deep low tones layered beneath almost every scene, particularly in the first half, creating an unrelenting feeling of eeriness throughout. This is juxtaposed very well with the use of nu-metal songs that completely take control of the action scenes. The style, in itself, is very unique a mixture of film noir with horror and a good dose of just general David Lynchian weirdness.

In conclusion, it has become one of my favourite Lynch films so far. The tone is set so well and tension is built effectively all the way through. Scattered along the way are incredibly artistically shot sex scenes that show a darker side to the characters they involve and the most graphic violence of any Lynch picture, again adding to the more mainstream horror vibe. The story seems a lot more understandable than many of his other films while still being encompassed by mysteriousness. And all of this adds up to one of the most well-crafted films I’ve seen in years, a truly under-rated masterpiece.